Before the start of the new academic year, the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia, Tamar Sanikidze, discussed the issue of free school textbooks on air on Rustavi 2. Ms Sanikidze responded to critics who claimed that the Ministry of Education and Science has considerably slashed the budget for the free school textbooks programme and indicated that the claim was wrong. According to the Minister, like the previous year, there will be both old and new textbooks at schools this year as well. Ms Sanikidze declared that: "The budget for the free school textbooks programme was decreased by only GEL 3.5 million… This year, we are going to have 40% new textbooks at schools."

FactCheck once again took interest in the issue of free school textbooks and verified the statement of the Minister of Education and Science (see earlier articles on this topic: article 1, article 2).

The Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia launched the free school textbooks programme in 2013. There were 5,819,778 new school textbooks printed for the 2013-2014 academic year within the framework of this programme. GEL 16,323,630 was allocated from the 2013 state budget for the textbooks. The Ministry of Education and Science printed 3,863,090 new school textbooks again in 2014 for the 2014-2015 academic year at a cost of GEL 13,216,000. According to the initial version of the 2015 state budget, the total budget of the Ministry of Education and Science was GEL 812 million. Of this amount, GEL 15.8 million was allocated for the free school textbooks programme for the 2015-2016 academic year. After the 2015 budget was amended, the budget of the Ministry of Education and Science was slashed by GEL 13.1 million. Of this amount, GEL 3.5 million was deducted from the amount of money allocated for the free school textbooks programme with the programme’s funding having dropped to GEL 12.3 million. However, according to the information of the Ministry of Education and Science, the programme’s budget was ultimately decreased even further to GEL 6.2 million.

In order to clarify how many books printed during the previous two years were still usable and how many new school textbooks were planned to be printed by the Ministry of Education and Science for the 2015-2016 academic year, FactCheck

addressed the Ministry of Education and Science with an official letter on 28 July 2015. The Ministry of Education and Science replied that it planned to purchase a total of 1,952,075 (73,627 textbooks and 1,878,448 notebooks) textbooks for the 2015-2016 academic year. In total, GEL 5,134,432 was spent for this purpose.

According to the information of the Ministry of Education and Science those 73,627 textbooks were purchased from the following companies: LTD MVP (41,844 textbooks), LTD English Book in Georgia and LTD Unique Learning (31,783 textbooks). Out of 1,878,448 notebooks 375,463 were printed by LTD MVP, 24,385 were printed by Bakur Sulakauri Publishing and 410,821 were printed by LTD English Book in Georgia.

In response to FactCheck

’s question of how many books printed in the period of 2013-2014 were still usable for the new academic year, the Ministry of Education and Science said: "Unfortunately, we do not process information on how many books printed in the period of 2013-2014 are still usable. Therefore, we are deprived of the possibility to answer this question." Thus, as we were unable to obtain information from the Ministry of Education and Science about the number of books which were printed in the period of 2013-2014 and which were still usable, we decided to calculate the share of the new books for the 2015-2016 academic year by ourselves. If we take into consideration the fact that the Ministry of Education and Science printed 5,819,778 new school textbooks during the first year of the free school textbooks programme and printed only 1,952,075 textbooks and notebooks this year, we can assume that the new school textbooks and notebooks comprise 33.5% of the total amount of school textbooks. However, as we have mentioned earlier, the number 1,952,075 includes both textbooks and notebooks whilst the actual number of textbooks per se is 73,627. If we calculate only the share of new textbooks, we can say that the share of new school textbooks in the entire free school textbooks programme for the 2015-2016 academic year will be only 14%.

FactCheck

attended the commencement of the new academic year at N192 Public School and interviewed some of the parents who said that part of the free textbooks were new and part of them were old. The same was confirmed by the director of N192 Public School.

Of note is the fact that when the Ministry of Education and Science launched the free school textbooks programme, it also approved a three-year duration of usage for the textbooks. This means that the Ministry of Education and Science will reprint books every three years. According to the statement of the Minister of Education and Science, textbooks will be reprinted for the next academic year and the old textbooks will be fully withdrawn from schools.

Conclusion

According to the initial version of the 2015 state budget, GEL 15.8 million was allocated for the free school textbooks programme. After the amendment of the state budget and at the time of Tamar Sanikidze’s statement, GEL 3.5 million was subtracted from the free school textbooks programme and the total amount was decreased to GEL 12.3 million. Later, the Ministry of Education and Science released information according to which the budget of the free school textbooks programme was slashed to GEL 6.2 million. Of this amount, GEL 5.1 million has already been spent.

FactCheck

was unable to obtain information from the Ministry of Education and Science on how many books printed in the period of 2013-2014 were still usable. We tried to make our own calculations. For the 2015-2016 academic year, the Ministry of Education and Science purchased 1,952,075 textbooks and notebooks in total (of this amount, there are 73,627 textbooks and 1,878,448 notebooks). The share of new textbooks and notebooks purchased for the 2015-2016 academic year is 33.5% from the total amount of free textbooks whilst the share of new textbooks only is 14%. If the Ministry of Education and Science did not possess information on how many textbooks printed in the last two years were still usable, it is unclear which data it used to decide upon the amount of new textbooks needed for the 2015-2016 academic year.

FactCheck concludes that the statement of the Minister of Education and Science of Georgia is HALF TRUE.

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